Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Creole and How and What I write

This is my first post on this blog. Best to just jump in. I'll come back to this subject again, and I think it's a good place to start. I don't think of myself as writing for anyone, on their behalf, because they can't speak for themselves. I believe all of us have things to say – aloud, or in secret, to ourselves. They may be incorrect, misguided, stupid, rash, slanderous, and we may say them in a stumbling, hapless way, and regret them after we've said them. They may of course also be brilliant and well worth saying and unforgettable once given voice. But for sure we have things to say – all of us. As for the community of people who speak in Jamaican Creole (JC after this) or Jamaica Talk or Patois or the Vernacular, whatever we call it, they have always seemed voluble folk to me, people with ready tongues to say many things, people who wield language with relish and imagination and energy and a unique sense of humour. Much of what I write, poetry or prose, is a gift from that earliest community of speakers who in a relatively short space of time created this language, quick and brisk after the slavers brought us across the Long Water, and a gift from all those speakers who have used it since then. People and events, jokes and stories, images and ideas not only come quick to me when I use Jamaican Creole; they also rejoice me in a special way, one that I'll try to describe some other time. Just one story now, tonight. My second book of poetry, DE MAN, which is the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion told entirely in JC, was written under a deadline of sorts. Lent had started, I'd promised the poem for Good Friday, and I hadn't written a line. Then the first line came to me: "Unoo see my dying trial!" and I knew that the whole poem would come, and that it would arrive in time. And it did. It's a poem that I'm proud of for many reasons, one of them being that a long line of speakers, mouth by mouth, ear by ear, down through "these many historical years" (see "Blessed Assurance", a poem for Louise Bennett, in CERTIFIABLE, published by Goose Lane Editions) caused it to come to be. Sure. I know. You can say that of any poem, about any language in which poems are written. But I know why I say it about this poem in this language. I'm saying thanks. I owe those thanks. Pam Mordecai. 15 August 2007.


Jdid said...

well said. i find its the same with me, most times the ideas that pop into my head just appear in creole/patois (only bajan not jamaican) and then it just flows from there.

clarabella said...

Thanks, jdid. and thanks for being the first commentator on this blog! I think other writers in the Caribbean may also have this experience, as well as writers from other language communities that use a vernacular. It would be useful to hear whether that's true. Walk good.
Pam Mordecai said...

Dear Pam,
Great post! I'm looking forward to many more.


Lady Roots said...

Bless up, Sistren Pam, and welcome to the bloglife. I think Nalo Hopkinson said it best when she said in her interview with the SF Site, "I could say "carnival revelry", but it wouldn't convey movement, sound, joy the same way that "ring-bang ruction" does." Certain phrases just make more sense in patois.
Lady Roots

clarabella said...

Hi Geoff:

Thanks for the comment, and for all the help. When the stockmarket plunges and the bees disappear, it's important for friends like you to be there. Still fumbling around here, but "softly, softly ketch monkey!"

Blessings pan fi yu head too.


clarabella said...

Hi lady roots:

Much thanks for the welcome. Yes, Nalo said it quite right, but she has a formidable talent for saying things quite right! I want to try to thrash that out for myself likklemore, though. It's not just that things are better said. It's that the language opens up a world for me, introduces me to people, initiates stories... More on this soon. Meantime, stay well and happy.


FSJL said...

Di trut neva simple, di honest wud
dat wi tink up, an dat wi affi write,
nat gwine emerge ongle in plain black an white;
dem come in ebry culla, free like bud.

clarabella said...

chu ting, prof...

aad fi tai dung
aad fi run agrung
tek wing laik bud
cum in aal kain a colour

im dat si tingz ongl
in blak an wait
lak sait

Blackgirl On Mars said...

Hello! Ricky in Denmark recommended I look up your blog and I'm happy she did. I liked this post and I have a joke to tell. Last week I went to a 50th Birthday party here in Denmark. I was the only person of color there (of course) and instead of being self-conscious about it, I just kind of sat back and observed. In my older years I have realized that that is oftentimes the best position: Do nothing and the Universe sends you surprises. Turns out that my dining mate is a linguist. He studied in the Caribbean and majored in Creole. I asked him what were the origins of Creole were...He was Danish and I really wanted to hear his answer. Well, he says, puffing his chest up with authority, stroking his beard with even more: The whites didn't think the Blacks could understand them if they spoke to them in the usual language, so they spoke baby talk to them. The blacks then imitated this language to their own, thus propagating the language...Hmmm. Devil advocate, I countered, "Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps 'creole' is a highly complex codification of the white man's language so that he/she can not understand what we the Blacks are saying amongst ourselves?
Well, it would be an understatement if I said his face turned red.
Blessings and thanks for your wise words and your blog. I will continue reading.

clarabella said...

Hi there, Black Girl on Mars:
Thanks for stopping by. I hope it was otherwise a good birthday party, and that your observations yielded many fruitful insights. (I'm trying to focus more and more on quiet observation myself.) That's kind of a strange answer from a linguist concerning the formation of creoles, still a very contested issue, as far as I know, though I'm no linguist. I think it is generally accepted that creoles GREW out of pidgins and that the process was one of elaboration (it's still going on, as far as I know) not replication - of baby talk or anything else. And of course, the fact of the slaves hiding their purposes through language is a matter of record... Well, at least he had enough shame to blush. Keep well, and do visit again. Clarabella